Teens, break the fast

Written by Lani Finau | 19 April, 2022

Caucasian family with a mum, dad, two teenage daughters, and one young son in their kitchen sitting at the dining table enjoying their bowls of cereal.

Calling all teenagers, adolescents and high school kiddies – have you been skipping your breakfast?

When it comes to breakfast – the importance is in the name: breaking the fast. According to the Sleep Foundation, teenagers (14-17 years) should be getting 8-10 hours of sleep. That means that upon waking you have already spent at least that amount of time without food – the body’s number one fuel source. Prolonging that any further at such a crucial stage of development can lead to some of the common symptoms teens feel throughout the day including fatigue, poor memory, reduced focus, stress, the list goes on.

Here’s why

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests the importance of breakfast for teens on health and school/education outcomes. Consuming breakfast is associated with improved:

  • Cognitive function
  • Attention
  • Memory
  • School attendance
  • Test scores (this particular study looked at maths test scores)

When you skip breakfast at any age, especially as a teen, you’re less likely to meet your daily dietary requirements and eat more foods that have a poor nutritional profile but high calorific value. I think of these foods as “empty meals”. They are missed opportunities to load your body up with all the essential vitamins, nutrients, and minerals it needs to thrive. This can have the subsequent effect of contributing to your stress levels and mood throughout the day.

Consuming a balanced breakfast containing quality carbohydrates/fibre, adequate protein, and a healthy source of fat is essential. This will help stabilise blood glucose (sugar) throughout the day, providing you with stable and steady energy – as opposed to an energy high from refined sugar-packed cereals that leave you feeling like you need a nap by lunchtime. When you stabilise your blood sugar/energy, you also subsequently support your hormones (which are already bouncing around throughout teenhood!). This will help you feel a little calmer, a little more collected, and a lot more yourself throughout the day.

So, without further ado – let me share with you three of my favourite teen-friendly brekkies that will take you no time at all to make.

2-Ingredient Oat Pancakes

I actually made this recipe up when I was 14! Like every teen, I loved a good pancake. But I wanted to create one that filled me up and hit all my nutritional needs. The two main ingredients are oats and an egg. That’s it. Easy is an understatement. Get the recipe here.

3-Ingredient Berry Smoothie

This is as delicious and antioxidant-rich as an acai bowl, only so much more affordable! (Plus, you can make it at home.) Berries are an excellent breakfast fruit as they are low GI and high in fibre – meaning they too help stabilise energy and blood sugar. This blend-and-go smoothie is ready in less than a minute. Have it as is or turn it into a smoothie bowl and top with your favourite raw nuts, seeds and fruit for extra nutritional impact. Get the recipe here.

No-Fuss Overnight Oats

There’s a lot to love about an overnight oat mix of any kind. Oats are a brilliant source of beta-glucans (a soluble fibre) that help lower LDL cholesterol and sustain day-long energy. My tip is to make a huge jar up of all the dry ingredients below and keep it stored in your cupboard like you do your cereal. That way, when you go to make this recipe, you just add the wet ingredients. How easy is that?

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup oats
  • ½ cup milk of choice
  • 2 tbsp yoghurt of choice – coconut yoghurt or natural yoghurt are great
  • ½ cup frozen mixed berries, to serve – any other fruit to top will also work
  • 1 tbsp nut butter, to serve, optional

Optional Extras:

  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp raw cashews
  • 2 tbsp goji berries
  • 2 tbsp flax seeds
  • 2 tbsp crushed walnuts

Method:

  1. Combine oats, milk, yoghurt and extras (if adding any) to a mason jar or container. Mix to combine, then top with frozen berries and nut butter.
  2. Place in the fridge overnight and grab and go in the morning.

This is a nice easy breakfast to make the night before school for an easy grab-and-go meal.

References

Benton, D., & Jarvis, M. (2007). The role of breakfast and a mid-morning snack on the ability of children to concentrate at school. Physiology & behavior, 90(2-3), 382–385. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2006.09.029

Chang, Z. S., Boolani, A., Conroy, D. A., Dunietz, T., & Jansen, E. C. (2021). Skipping breakfast and mood: The role of sleep. Nutrition and health, 27(4), 373–379. https://doi.org/10.1177/0260106020984861

Hearst, M. O., Shanafelt, A., Wang, Q., Leduc, R., & Nanney, M. S. (2016). Barriers, Benefits, and Behaviors Related to Breakfast Consumption Among Rural Adolescents. The Journal of school health, 86(3), 187–194. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12367

Lundqvist M, Vogel NE, Levin LÅ. Effects of eating breakfast on children and adolescents: A systematic review of potentially relevant outcomes in economic evaluations. Food Nutr Res. 2019;63:10.29219/fnr.v63.1618. Published 2019 Sep 12. doi:10.29219/fnr.v63.1618

Murphy, J. M., Pagano, M. E., Nachmani, J., Sperling, P., Kane, S., & Kleinman, R. E. (1998). The relationship of school breakfast to psychosocial and academic functioning: cross-sectional and longitudinal observations in an inner-city school sample. Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine, 152(9), 899–907. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.152.9.899

Widaman, A. M., Witbracht, M. G., Forester, S. M., Laugero, K. D., & Keim, N. L. (2016). Chronic Stress Is Associated with Indicators of Diet Quality in Habitual Breakfast Skippers. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 116(11), 1776–1784. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2016.03.016


Lani Finau

Leilani – known as Lani to most – is an accredited Nutritionist (BHSc) passionate about teenage/adolescent health and female wellbeing. Located in Cronulla, Sydney, she offers in-person and online consultations at her By Lani Nutrition Clinic and also frequently visits schools for workshops, as well as doing group talks and online cooking sessions. She also works as the in-house Nutritionist and Content Creator at SWIISH, a leading Australian wellness and lifestyle brand.

Read more by Lani Finau

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